March/April 2009, eSide Supply Management Vol. 2, No. 2
When It Comes to Ambition, Age Is Just a Number
For 20-something supply management professionals, gaining respect in the workplace can be an uphill climb. Sometimes, simply looking young can be misconstrued — even by well-meaning coworkers and superiors — as inexperience or a lack of understanding of complex concepts.
To combat these stereotypes, young supply management professionals are increasingly pursuing — and securing — professional certifications such as the Institute for Supply Management™'s esteemed Certified Professional in Supply Management® (CPSM®). In this edition of eSide, we spotlight three driven 20-something CPSM®s setting the pace for their peers.
After 29-year-old Zachary Andersen, a supply chain administrator for Springville, Utah-based aircraft parts distribution and PMA development organization Wencor, received his C.P.M. certification in September 2007, pursuing his CPSM® seemed like the next logical step. After all, many of the test concepts were still fresh in his mind.
Just 14 months later, Andersen was a CPSM®.
Even more ambitious than his time line, however, was his all-in-one approach. Instead of taking all three CPSM® Exams as part of the pilot process, he decided to try his hand at the Bridge Exam — and passed.
"The format for the CPSM® Exam wasn't like the C.P.M.," he recalls. "In the CPSM®, there was a broader topic range, with more emphasis on application of the concepts. That made real-world experience (which I didn't have a lot of) more valuable."
Even so, with a college degree in supply management, Andersen remembers feeling at least somewhat prepared to pursue his CPSM®. In lieu of on-the-job experience, he decided to study as hard as possible for the Bridge Exam.
It paid off — plus, he had plenty of organizational support. Because ISM certifications are highly valued at Wencor, his supervisor gave him paid time off to take the exam and also paid all associated fees.
Today, Andersen is grateful for the support and happy with the results. "By obtaining my CPSM®, I feel I've gained respect from my higher-ups," he says. "I'm sure, as the years go by, I'll reap additional benefits from this designation. The satisfaction of knowing I'm certified in what I do makes me feel good."
For Jami Coop, 25, a 2004 R. Gene Richter Scholar and Creighton University MBA holder, the decision to pursue her CPSM® certification was made without hesitation. "I had no reservations at all," she recalls. "The main reason I pursued it was to show that education and my profession are important to me."
True to form, Coop had finished all four C.P.M. Exams in 2006, less than a year after receiving her undergraduate degree. "I knew it would never get any easier to take those [exams]," she explains. "I was still in somewhat of a study mode, so that helped."
In fact, Coop had not finished submitting her C.P.M. certification paperwork before she decided to take the CPSM® Bridge Exam.
"I was also working on my master's degree at the time, but I knew that it would mean a lot to look back and know I was one of the first people to get my CPSM®," she recalls. "I bought the study materials, took the exam and was fortunate enough to pass on the first try."
Coop says she "definitely" found the CPSM® Exam more challenging than the C.P.M.
"It will be harder for folks who've focused solely on purchasing — there's a much stronger emphasis on supply chain integration in the CPSM®," she advises. "But then again," she adds, "I don't think many people out there are only thinking about purchasing all day anymore. [This profession] really takes an integrated skill set.
"I believe pursuing the certification early in your career shows ambition and dedication to your career," she says. "The CPSM®'s value doesn't diminish; it can only grow stronger — especially as you're looking to secure higher positions in your organization. It seems like, more and more, employers are listing ‘C.P.M. preferred' or ‘CPSM® preferred' on job requirements."
Coop is currently a procurement manager, focusing on packaging procurement, for ConAgra Foods in Omaha, Nebraska. Coop received support for her CPSM® pursuit from the upper management team. "Participation in ISM is supported and encouraged," she explains.
Now that "CPSM®" and "C.P.M." both appear in Coop's e-mail signature and on her business cards, she says coworkers and peers regard the certifications as attainable for themselves. "I think [they know] it's a value-add to a person's résumé, similar to having an MBA," she says.
Considering her on-the-job experience totaled less than five years when she decided to take the CPSM® Bridge Exam last year, Leslie Waggoner, 25, recalls spending an inordinate amount of time studying.
"I needed to ensure I was up to speed on scenarios that don't currently exist, or haven't existed, in my career so far," she explains. "The exam content is very broad. There's a vast scope as to what might be included on it."
Obviously, her preparation paid off: Waggoner — a surplus asset analyst for Intel Corporation in Chandler, Arizona and a 2004 R. Gene Richter Scholar — submitted her CPSM® certification paperwork in February.
Having obtained her C.P.M. certification shortly before that, Waggoner says she was comfortable with the process and knew what to expect. The two certification processes were similar, she adds, except for the lack of CPSM®-specific diagnostic CDs, the likes of which previously enabled her to zero in on the C.P.M. content areas in which she was deficient. Although CPSM® Diagnostic Practice Exams will be available — in print and online — before ISM's Annual Conference in May, Waggoner says the lack of these tools at the time actually improved her comprehension of the CPSM® study materials. "When I was studying for this exam, I had to review all the content," she explains.
In pursuit of her CPSM®, Waggoner received plenty of support from Intel. The organization paid for her to take the Bridge Exam and for all her study materials. Less tangible — but equally vital — support came in the form of heartfelt congratulations from peers and higher-ups after she secured the certification.
"The folks who've taken [the exam] as well are extremely happy for me," she says. "And those who haven't taken it have shown interest in completing it for themselves."
In the future, Waggoner hopes her CPSM® certification will demonstrate her willingness to learn, and her interest in, all aspects of supply management. "I hope it shows that I understand the unique supply chain, and the various functions within it, on a broad level," she says.
RaeAnn Slaybaugh is a senior writer for the Institute for Supply Management™. She can be reached by e-mail.
For more articles and resources on ISM's professional credentials, visit the ISM articles database.
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